Long before he became vice president at Berman’s Motor Express, Ed Derrick’s first job was working alongside his father at a Binghamton fruit stand.
He learned the value of hard work and integrity from the job, and they were traits that would shape Ed’s life, first as an academic and athletic standout in high school, then a young employee fresh out of high school, and eventually as a well- respected pioneer of the industry.
Self-made in his profession, Ed believed there were no shortcuts to success. He was a credit to the community, his loved ones say, both in how hard he worked and how willingly he helped and supported the people around him.
“There are a lot of people out there,” his childhood friend George Hays said, “who have a lot of reasons to thank Ed Derrick.”
J. Edward Derrick, 88, of Windsor, died May 4, according to his obituary.
Early obstacles in wartime America
He was born the youngest of Francis and Imelda Derrick’s five children on Oct. 2, 1930.
Imelda suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died less than two years later, leaving Ed’s father to raise him and his older siblings, Cyril, Agnes, Anna and Fran, at their home on Gerard Avenue in Binghamton.
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They had their share of challenges growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, through the Great Depression and its aftershocks, cascading directly into wartime America. Ed’s father, Francis, was a self-made man, and he worked hard to provide for his family.
He was an example of work ethics for his children. As to their behavior, Ed would credit the nuns on the faculty at St. Patrick’s School with “keeping him on the straight and narrow,” his son, Jerry Derrick, said.
St. Patrick’s was where Ed met his lifelong friend, George Hays. Now 90, George said his friend Eddie was the same considerate, generous person in their adult years as he was when George turned 16 and needed a place to stay.
The Derricks took him in.
‘A very exceptional human being’
“He gave me a home when I needed it the most, a place to hang my hat, and all the love and warmth that goes with being part of a family,” George said. “They made me part of their family, that’s something I’ve always cherished.”
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He’s also cherished the memories of Ed’s humor and his ingenuity, no matter how grim the situation.
On a trip to Niagara Falls with a group of friends, George’s car died just before the Canadian border. They’d taken two cars on the trip, so Ed bought some rope and tied it to the disabled 1939 Ford to tow all the way home to Binghamton.
What started as a 50-foot tether was severely reduced by the time they pulled into town, but the group and the car made it home safely.
“He and I had a lot of fun,” George said.
After graduating high school — Ed was one of the top students in his class — Ed took a job loading trucks, then worked as a truck driver with George at Fowler and Williams.
Working with Ed “was a charm,” George said, though he believes his friend was better suited for administrative responsibilities than driving. Ed felt the same way at the time.
He switched jobs, took a pay cut and joined Berman’s Motor Express as a dispatcher. There he’d work in “all facets of the trucking industry,” Jerry said, including positions as a rate clerk and salesman.
A leader by example
As a young man, Ed had met and married Eleanor “Elly” Dodd, of Windsor. Theirs was a love story of seven decades and seven children. With a full house, Ken, Jerry, Lori, Paul, Kathy, Steve and Lisa never knew what name they’d be called from day to day, but their home was “a great foundation,” for all of them, Jerry said.
Ed led his family to be example every day, working extra hours and doing whatever needed to be done to provide for them.
Back in the days of strict federal trucking regulations and firms owning rights to particular routes, rate clerks were “the heart of a trucking firm,” George said. Juggling dozens of local manufacturing firms like IBM, EJ and Ansco, Ed’s early business days involved complicated calculations to determine respective distribution costs, and he was good at it.
“He had a wonderful brain,” George said. “He was very, very smart.”
Ed would eventually be named vice president of the company. He was an active member of the Middle Atlantic Rate Bureau, which established the classification and rate structure for the Northeast Corridor. Later, when deregulation began, he shouldered the responsibility of applying for new service areas, a cumbersome job trucking firms typically handed off to their lawyers.
“Dad was a true pioneer in that endeavor,” Jerry said, “and set the stage for other carriers to follow.”
In 1980, Ed was named Triple Cities Traffic Club’s Man of the Year.
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Lance Hill, who was Ed’s assistant for many years, said Ed was known for his dedication to the job.
“He had a tremendous work ethic,” Lance said. “He was extremely fair in all his dealings and his integrity was unparalleled.”
‘He’d move heaven and earth’ to help
If Ed was told he needed to work 40 hours, he’d frequently stick around for 50 or 60, George said.
Personal and straight-forward — “He would tell it as it was,” Lance said. — Ed brought in a number of big accounts based in large part on his reputation for following through on promises.
When the local Girl Scouts of the USA troops needed cookies for their annual sale, Ed didn’t hand the responsibility off to someone else in the company. Timeliness was key, and he stuck around to make sure all of the scouts had the supplies they needed.
“He was just a good, honest person who cared about the people that surrounded him,” Lance said. “If he told you he would do something, it would be done. You could depend on it.”
Whether he was aware of it or not, Ed’s dedication made him a teacher to his fellow employees. They mimicked his work ethic and thrived on his positive approach.
It was similar to the Derrick’s dynamic at home.
“Our dad didn’t ‘preach’ to us, he led by example,” Jerry said. “So living his life treating others with respect, working hard (and) being dedicated made his family who we are today and prepared us well for life’s hurdles.”
There were two rules in the Derrick house: “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all” and “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Ed didn’t gossip or speak ill of anyone else, his family said. His laughter and good humor were contagious and his love and care extended far beyond the walls of their family home.
“If anybody I ever knew ever needed something very bad, they could ask Ed and he’d move heaven and earth to make sure they got it,” George said.
He fostered a deep sense of generosity to be shared with the entire community and in doing so demonstrated “what true friendship was all about,” George said.
“Ed Derrick was a very exceptional human being,” he added. “Warm, child, kind, full of empathy for people. He was a credit to the community.”
In A Life Lived, we honor the lives of those who’ve recently passed away in our communities. If you would like to see your loved one featured, send to email [email protected]. Follow Katie Sullivan Borrelli on Twitter @ByKatieBorrelli. Support our journalism and become a digital subscriber today. Click here for our special offers.